A proposal allowing Nashvillians to keep chickens at urban residences –– a hot-button measure defeated just three years ago –– has resurfaced in the Metro Council.
Councilwoman Karen Bennett, the sponsor of several animal-themed bills during her four-year council stint, has filed a bill that would legalize housing chickens –– no more than six –– in urban dwellings, provided various sanitation requirements and other conditions are met.
“I’ve done a lot of research looking at what other sister cities have done, and what has worked for them, and what has not, “Bennett told The City Paper. “I’ve put together, I think, the best fit for Nashville where we can have chickens in the city and be responsible pet owners.”
Under Metro’s existing code, chickens are not permitted in any homes within the Urban Services District –– which consists of the oldest parts of Nashville, largely the urban core –– or within the suburban General Services District in lots less than five acres.
Bennett’s bill, which heads before the council on the first of three votes Nov. 1, would allow chickens in urban areas on a limited basis, according to council attorney Jon Cooper. Depending on the acreage of a home, an individual could house between two or six chickens.
To house domesticated hens, Davidson County residents would need to apply for an annual $25 permit with the Metro Health Department. Roosters, as well as the process of breeding chickens, would be outlawed altogether.
“It’s a clean, healthy way to have eggs in your diet,” Bennett said of housing chickens. “It’s a great food source, a renewable food source, and it’s a responsible way for residents to produce their own food.”
The proposal comes with several conditions, including: Hens must be kept in “predator-proof,” covered henhouses requiring building permits. Henhouses must be at least 10 feet from property lines and 25 from other houses. There can be “no perceptible” odor from the hens. Feed must be stored in containers with metal lids. No slaughtering of hens can take place on properties. Dead chickens would have to be removed “as quickly as possible” via the Metro Public Works Department.
Finally, to ease concerns of cockfighting, the bill prohibits the training of chickens for amusement, sport or financial gain.
Three years ago, Councilman Jason Holleman and former Councilwoman Kristine LaLonde proposed a similar urban chicken bill that went down in defeat by a 20-15 vote.
Bennett, elected in August to a second term in her Inglewood-seat, feels confident her legislation can pass.
“That’s why I did the research,” she said. “I’ve put together something I think will work.”
Bennett, who doesn’t own any chickens herself, said she has several constituents who do house hens –– illegally, unbeknownst to them –– and others who have expressed a desire to do so.
“In the changing of our society –– 4-H isn’t as popular as it was –– we don’t have kids raising hens as much as they use to,” Bennett said. “We’re using a lot of those heritage breeds [of chickens] that used to be in the U.S. There is a great interest in preserving those historic breeds.”
Like three years ago, the urban chicken bill is certain to set off plenty of debate on the council floor. Some council members, however, have already signed on.
“I would be pleased to see the chickens in my district be treated as legal, because there are a lot of them,” Councilwoman Emily Evans said. “My district has got a good deal of contraband chickens, so I think they would be pleased to become legal.”